Methods for Remedying Construction Delays When They Occur

Methods for Remedying Construction Delays When They Occur

Every good project manager develops a construction schedule with a little slippage here and there. However, it becomes an inevitable that the little slippage here and there snowballs into a full-on delayed project. What can you do the help the project from getting completely off the rails?

Why is there a construction delay? 

Before you can fix anything, you need to know what went wrong. Take a look and deeply analyze the schedule.

Did the expected and actual durations of a task align or did the task take longer than expected?  Let’s assume that the painting took longer than estimated. Was it because the expected duration was unreasonable or was the crew not as productive as can be? You determine that the estimate was reasonable and based on historical data on the completion of similar projects in the past. So, how can you determine the productivity of your crew months prior?

Your crew will not be able to remember details on the project from last month, so his is where your daily logs and time cards serve as critical documentation. From the daily logs, you see that there were several days in which your crew experienced several delays on the jobsite. One day, the General Contractor did not open up the jobsite for access. The next days, the drywall subcontractors were still finishing the joints. And in one area the drywall was not even installed.

As you dig in deeper, you realize that while you the painting subcontractor was delayed by the drywall subcontractor, the drywall subcontractor was delayed because of another subcontractor. The root cause was a change order by the owner which caused a wall to be moved and this created a snowball effect.

Now what?

Now that you have identified the root cause of the delay, your team can now establish a remediation plan. The plan will address how to bring the project back on schedule and prevent other construction delays from occurring.


While the above example may be a minor delay as a result of a change order, the truth of the matter is that every change order represents a barrier to completion. When you add multiple change orders, the delays begin to compound. When change orders begin to get out of control, it’s important for the project team of owner, designer, contractor, and subcontractors to regroup. Take another look at the project, goals, schedules, and budget and align all expectations accordingly. The more the team can make all necessary changes earlier, than the better it will be for everyone. Once you regroup, you can reenage on the revised plan to move forward.

Instill a process

Perhaps the reason for the failures in the above example, was the lack of a process on how to address changes. The team can now establish a process on implementing changes with minimal impact to a schedule. For example, changes requests would require acknowledgement within seven days. Once the owner or General Contractor approves the change, the parties can move forward. The general contractor would then notify all subcontractors of the impact whether to schedule, materials, or labor. Many construction companies find that implementing construction management software helps to automate the process and keep everyone on the same page.

Improve communication

Perhaps there was a process in place in implementing changes, however it was the communication between project stakeholders that was lacking. Many problems could be prevented by improving communication. Oftentimes project managers at the office are disconnected from the challenges that occur at the jobsite. Foreman at the jobsite could upload pictures, document issues, and complete daily reports into a construction project management system. This provides project managers real time updates into jobsite activity. They can reach out to the General Contractor or Owner to resolve any issues before they escalate into larger problems.  It’s important that all this communication serves as important project documentation. Storing project emails and documentation in a central repository facilitates effective communication.

Transparency and accountability

Detailed processes and documentation increases transparency on a project. With a higher level of transparency, stakeholders become more accountable in their processes and decision making. This will help to prevent items from slipping through the cracks and snowballing into large issues that can derail a project schedule.

Don’t let construction delays get you down

Construction delays will happen. It’s important to quickly identify the root cause of the delay and then move forward with a plan to prevent further delays. Implementing a process (or software) to improve communication between project stakeholders helps to increase accountability and stop small issues from escalating into big problems. Because big problems cause big delays.